Marco Rubio visits the First Coast

Photo+by+Nick+Blank

Photo by Nick Blank

Nick Blank

Republican Presidential candidate Marco Rubio focused on winning the March 15 Florida primary, criticizing Democrats and praising Jacksonville’s military background in a Saturday stop on the First Coast.

Despite trailing Donald Trump by as many as 20 points in the polls, the Florida Senator was cheerful and engaging with the crowd at the Morocco Shrine Auditorium, a vast departure from his confrontational attitude at the March 3 GOP debate.

Rubio chose not to attack his Republican opponents in his thirty-minute address. Rubio seldom mentioned Donald Trump’s name, but lashed out against Trump’s rhetoric. He said the next president needed to be a “true conservative” and the Republican Party had to be, “The party of hope and opportunity.”

“Conservatism is not about how many ridiculous things you can say on television. Conservatism is adhering to the Constitution of the United States,” he continued.

President Barack Obama and Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were the Senators go-to targets.

“On my first day in office, I’m going to cancel Obama’s deal with Iran. On my first day in office I’m going to repeal Obamacare,” Rubio said. “When I’m president we’re going to take care of our veteran’s again.”

“We don’t want to be a socialist country, this is America,” said Rubio, in reference to Sanders and his democratic socialist position.

Rubio also discussed Clinton’s role in the 2012 American embassy attacks in Libya.

“Hillary Clinton lied to the families of the victims of Benghazi. Anyone who lied to those that served our country can never be the Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America,” said Rubio.

Jacksonville’s military heritage was the subject of praise from the candidate.

“America is about a strong national defense and if there’s a city that understands the military, it’s right here in Northeast Florida and right here in Jacksonville,” Rubio said.

He guaranteed a victory in the Florida primary several times during the rally. With 99 delegates available, the primary is considered make or break for Rubio. He currently has 151 delegates, behind Donald Trump (384) and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (300).

Delegates, in addition to primary voters, determine the party’s nomination for the Presidency. More info on this process can be found on the GOP website.

North Florida is considered a weak point in Rubio’s polling. A study by MCI maps said that Rubio’s low polling in Alabama (18.7 percent) and Georgia (24.4 percent) can predict his primary poll numbers for the area.

In a Fox News interview, Rubio irritated some north Florida Republicans when he played down his losses, “…you’re talking about North Florida, not heavily populated areas.”

Rubio has claimed one primary (Minnesota) of 19 total contests. He also failed to win any of the four primaries on “Super Saturday.” Donald Trump called for Rubio to drop out of the race on Saturday night.

He compared his current challenge to his 2010 senatorial election victory over former Florida governor Charlie Crist.

“I was arguing that the person running as a Republican was not a Republican. It’s funny how history repeats itself,” he said.

Rubio continued by saying Northeast Florida’s support resulted in his win in 2010.

“Everything I knew about politics told me I was going to lose. Outside of my home-city of Miami, there was an area of core people that believed in me right here in Duval county.”

Rubio dismissed any notion of desperation, instead turning it into an underdog narrative.

“If you watch the press they say, ‘oh he’s an underdog, he’s taking on an incredible task,’” Rubio said. “America is a country of underdogs, a place where people fight each day to move ahead.”

The rally-goers filed into the stuffy auditorium and waited an hour before Rubio took the stage. Organizers said there were over 3,000 people in attendance to hear Rubio’s message about creating a “New American Century.”

One of those audience members, former Green Beret Bruce Pastorini, said Rubio was the most exciting politician he’d seen since John F. Kennedy.

Cosmetologist Hannah Davis appreciated Rubio’s optimism and his policies.

“He actually leaves you encouraged and inspired, not just thinking of all the bad things that we have going on right now,” Davis said. “He actually has solutions to the problems we have.”

UNF student Chris Carr acknowledged Rubio’s odds of winning the Florida nomination were unsteady.

“Hopefully he gets the Florida nomination, but we only have one vote,” Carr said. “If I had to [vote for Trump] I would. I would always support the Republican party.”

Sue Pastorini, a former nurse, already voted for Rubio.

“He believes what I believe: we need a stronger America. He’s for the veterans. If anybody’s going to get it done, he’s going to get it done.”

 

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